Unity must necessarily be one of the greatest themes of the Bible which proclaims a triune God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit; three distinct persons yet one glorious God. Three distinguishable persons, yet wonderfully and mysteriously one, so that the Father is God, the Son is God, and the Holy Spirit is God; three persons but not three gods; three names but not three different names for the same person; each of the three persons enjoying a divine, eternal, and most intimate relationship with the other two. The God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ having an eternal, fatherly relationship to His divine Son. The Holy Spirit eternally proceeding from the Father and the Son to do the will of God on earth universally and in the heart of each believer particularly. “Great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised.”
If this be at the centre of our most holy faith, then unity must needs be the golden thread which twines and shines through all the works of our most gracious God. Conversely, all strife, division, bitterness and hate must come from another source and Satan, that fallen spirit, the originator of all rebellion and alienation from God, is the culprit.
Adam, made in the image of God, was given a wife from God’s own hand and the two became one flesh; the most intimate natural union we can experience. But Satan works against all such happy relationships and as soon as our first parents sin, dis-union is so sadly apparent. “The woman whom thou gavest to be with me, she gave me of the tree, and I did eat” – given to be with him but now blamed and used as an excuse for his sin!
The sons of these first parents, the first to know a relationship as brothers together in this first family, soon show the disruptive and evil consequences of an inherited evil nature. Cain murders, as the final act of a spirit alienated, jealous, and so different from that of his brother Abel.
History unfolds and from Abraham springs a nation of twelve tribes; a nation united in its origin and deriving its unity, under God, from the father of the faithful. And yet, despite the influence of two of its great kings, David and Solomon, it became sadly divided under Jeroboam and Rehoboam into the ten and the two, the north and the south, Israel and Judah. Elijah reminds a now sinful, idolatrous, and divided nation of the true God’s special relationship with the whole twelve tribes as he takes up the twelve stones to rebuild the altar of the Lord which for so long had been broken down on Mount Carmel [1 Kings 18.31].
Ezekiel, the man who prophesied by actions as well as words, sees a valley of dry bones miraculously restored to become an exceeding great army – the whole house of Israel, and immediately God commands him to take two sticks representing the divided nation, and these two separate sticks become one in his hand. Restoration and revival clearly followed by unity under one King. “And David my servant shall be king over them; and they shall all have one shepherd: they shall also walk in my judgments, and observe my .statutes, and do them.” A wonderful prophecy of unity in, and under, Christ the Shepherd King of His people united in faith and in a holy, obedient life. “And my servant David shall be their prince for ever. Moreover I will make a covenant of peace with them; it shall be an everlasting covenant with them: and I will place them, and multiply them, and will set my sanctuary in the midst of them for evermore. My tabernacle also shall be with them: yea, I will be their God, and they shall be my people” [Ezekiel 37.25-27].
The years pass and Jesus comes, the Prince of peace; but the greatest division in human history is soon evident. “I came not to send peace, but a sword” [Matt. 10.34]. The seed of the woman and the seed of the serpent [Gen. 3.15], are seen in their utter and complete opposition to each other. Yet, to the Saviour’s own little band of followers come many lessons urging them to humility, love, and union. “What was it that ye disputed among yourselves by the way? But they held their peace: for by the way they had disputed among themselves, who should be the greatest. And he sat down, and called the twelve, and saith unto them, If any man desire to be first, the same shall be last of all, and servant of all” [Mark 9.33-35]. “He riseth from supper, and laid aside his garments; and took a towel and girded himself. Ye call me Master and Lord: and ye say well; for so I am. If I then, your Lord and Master, have washed your feet; ye ought to wash one another’s feet” [John 13.4 and 13-14]. “This is my commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you” [John 15.12].
Later we read of a greatly gifted but sadly carnal church at Corinth rebuked severely for its un-Christlike divisions and party spirit. “Is Christ divided?” And Paul demands from them the evident answer which should humble and rebuke all similarly divisive attitudes in any church.
Paul describes the basis of all true Christian unity in Ephesians 4. One Spirit, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, and in writing to the Philippians he shows us his deep concern for the practical consequences of this great doctrine as, from a grieved heart, he cries, “Therefore, my brethren dearly beloved and longed for, my joy and crown, so stand fast in the Lord, my dearly beloved. I beseech Euodias, and beseech Syntyche, that
they be of the same mind in the Lord” [4.1-2].
In the book of Revelation we read of seven churches in Asia, .even golden candlesticks, not a seven-branched candlestick as in he temple, to represent God’s light in a theocratic nation, but seven distinct candlesticks, seven local light-bearing churches. Is this disunity? Does Jesus have seven entirely separate churches, seven denominations, and many more besides, all separated and even antagonistic, here on earth? No – for in the midst of the seven candlesticks is “one like the Son of man” and He has seven stars, the angels of the seven churches, in His right hand, and they are all in
His right hand together.
Such is the unity of all those who were chosen in Christ before the foundation of the world, all those who are accepted in the beloved, all those who are redeemed by His precious blood, and all those who will finally be for ever with the Lord when all things are to be gathered together “in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth; even in him: in whom also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestinated according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will: that we should be to the praise of his glory, who first trusted in Christ” [Eph. ..10-11].
This is the high calling of all true believers, all members of His true church. How great then should be our desire to express and enjoy the blessedness of our union in Him. In the face of a false
ecumenism which seeks a visible but superficial unity with scant regard for the vital doctrines of the faith once delivered to the saints, it is vital that all true followers of a meek and lowly Jesus should seek to show their united love to Him, to His truth, and to every one of His family. “And be at peace among yourselves” [1 Thess. 5.13].